Bribes a way of life for timber truckers in central Vietnam

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Truck drivers transporting timber through central Vietnam have to bribe forest rangers to continue their journey whether their cargo is legal or not, a Tuoi Tre report says.


If the drivers do not give the money voluntarily, they and the cargo owners face a series of "troubles" before they agree to pay up, the report says.


On July 31, a northbound truck was stopped by forest rangers in the north-central province of Ha Tinh and asked to pay VND5 million (US$240), failing which the timber would be seized for checking, although the driver presented legal documents.


Thanh, the driver, said he only had VND2.5 million left and asked to pay VND2 million, as he had done for another timber truck the previous time.


But the forest rangers said no truck was similar to another and the two sides bargained back and fort for a while before the rangers decided to take VND2.5 million, according to Tuoi Tre reporters who traveled with the truck.


Drivers frequenting the route before entering Ha Tinh would call the province forest rangers to send someone to collect the money in advance.


On August 31, another northbound truck carrying 43 tons of timber stopped at the Ha Tinh border for the driver to give VND2 million to a man sent by the provincial rangers.


To drivers not familiar with the "rules," the forest rangers would state various problems with the timber. "The timber does not match the document description" or "the documentation is not adequate" are some of them, until the drivers pay up or ask the timber owners to do so.


A forest ranger told a driver who tried to avoid the payment that "There's no use arguing. If we want, there will be problems, so just do it quickly."


One timber truck with 42 tons on August 11 had to pay twice the sum as some forest rangers in the north-central province of Thanh Hoa also operated on similar "rules".


The truck was designed to carry just 11 tons, so the driver was asked to pay or have some timber removed.


"Tell the owner to send VND15 million, plus VND6.5 million as fines," a senior forest ranger named Hieu told the driver.


Tin, a timber driver who was stopped in Thanh Hoa on August 31, said the forest rangers first listed a lot of problems with the timber that were not true, and asked for VND10 million.


After some bargaining, they agreed to go with VND8 million, the driver said.


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